If Mary Poppins were administering doses of medicine today, her song might just be changed to something like: “A 3D printed tablet makes the medicine go down…in the most delightful way!” Granted, it’s not as catchy as the ‘spoon full of sugar’ version, but it has more practical application. Researchers and pharmaceutical companies are pushing toward the day when individualized medicine doses can be printed on demand, in house. That day is still a vision for the future, but what is quickly approaching on the horizon is the possibility for 3D printing easy to swallow, quick dissolving tablets that combine the ease of liquid medicines with the accurate dosage of a tablet.
We’ve all done it, gotten a course of medicine and then not finished all of the pills prescribed. Part of it is just that the moment we feel better, we forget to take the pills, but sometimes its because the pills are particularly large, difficult to swallow, or require hard to administer dosage forms. This failure to complete a course of medicine (or simply to continue following it if it is chronically necessary) is known in the medical community as non-adherence and it has enormous economic impacts. The World Health Organizations estimates that the current economic impacts of between $100 and $289 billion will continue to rise as more than 157 million Americans are projected to be afflicted with some sort of chronic condition by the year 2020.
These fast dissolving tablets, known as ZipDoses were developed by Aprecia Pharmaceuticals in Langhorne, PA. The company modified 3D printing technology technology developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that was designed to create fast melting products. The pills are created by repeatedly spreading thin layers of the medicine in powder form in combination with a water based binder. In tests the company showed that a full tablet can be dissolved in just over four seconds.
Aprecia is currently developing a portfolio of medication candidates for production in this type 3D printable of fast melt form. The medicines being investigated currently are among those that are commonly prescribed for nerve diseases and disorders. She declined to name a specific product, but Jennifer Zieverink, Senior Director of Alliance Management at Aprecia explained the unique niche this new method of producing medicine occupies in the pharmaceutical market:
“We believe it will be the only fast-melt version of this molecule on the market. Due to limitations with the ability of existing technologies to formulate high-dose, fast-melt pharmaceuticals, we believe that our ZipDose technology has potential broad applicability across a wide range of additional therapeutic categories.”
Hopefully such medications are available to patients sooner rather than later, as Aprecia pushes forward with R & D. Let us know what your thoughts are on Aprecia’s 3D printing initiatives in the Easy to Swallow Medication forum thread on 3DPB.com. A video of the medication in action can be seen here.